LPN vs. CNA: Which Nursing Path is Right for You?

LPN vs. CNA – two different acronyms, two different credentials, and two very distinct, yet very essential, roles within the nursing field. They are also some of the most accessible and in-demand nursing careers today.

Right now, you might be debating between a LPN or CNA career path. You know you want to enter the nursing field, but are still unsure which type of role you’d like to pursue. Rest assured that Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) and Certified Nursing Assisting (CNA) are promising professions that are both within your reach. Each path will give you a foothold in the nursing field – but which is right for you?

Before beginning your educational journey towards an LPN or CNA career, it is important to understand what each job entails. As a Connecticut nursing school with CNA and LPN program offerings, Stone Academy discusses the roles, the training requirements, and the credentials of each below.

CNA vs. LPN Job Duties

Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are both involved in direct patient care and share some basic day-to-day duties, such as checking patient vital signs. It is important to note, however, that LPNs and CNAs carry out different scopes of practice in a healthcare setting.

CNA – Certified Nursing Assistants provide basic care to patients under the supervision of a Registered Nurse. While they have a smaller scope of practice than LPN nurses, CNAs hold a unique role in the healthcare field: they are the primary responders at a patient’s bedside. Many consider CNAs the eyes, ears, and hands of the nursing staff, because they are consistently working with patients, monitoring their health, and tending to their needs. As a CNA, you can expect to spend much time with your patients, performing duties such as:

  • Assisting with patients’ activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, toileting, and feeding
  • Measuring patient vital signs, such as blood pressure and temperature
  • Transporting patients between beds and wheelchairs, and throughout facility
  • Making beds and cleaning up patients’ rooms
  • Communicating patient needs to the nursing staff
  • Recording and reporting any changes in patient conditions to the nursing staff

LPN – Licensed Practical Nurses are licensed nurses, and generally have more responsibility than CNAs. They provide extensive patient care for sick, injured, and disabled patients and partake in more medical duties than a nursing assistant – administering medications, taking blood samples, and more. Still, like CNAs, LPNs work under the direction of registered nurses and doctors on their larger healthcare team. These are some of the duties you can expect to carry out as a licensed practical nurse:

  • Administering prescription medications and vaccinations
  • Collecting specimens for lab testing (blood, urine, etc.)
  • Assisting with wound care (stitching, dressing)
  • Feeding through nasogastric or gastrostomy tubes
  • Performing emergency CPR
  • Monitoring catheters
  • Working in conjunction with an RN to create patient care plans

CNA vs. LPN Education & Training

Both CNAs and LPNs require some post-secondary education before they can dive into their dedicated nursing careers. However, the educational paths for these professionals look quite different, and will vary state-to-state. Most often, becoming a CNA is the fastest-track to a nursing career. LPNs require a bit more schooling, as they take on more responsibilities than certified nursing aides.

CNA – Certified Nursing Assistants must complete a state-approved CNA program. This will teach them the basic nursing skills and the fundamental principles of patient care. In Connecticut, CNA programs must be at least 100 hours and be coordinated by nursing professionals. Stone Academy offers a 125-hour program for aspiring CNAs, blending classroom learning with on- and off-site clinical experiences. At Stone Academy, you can complete your CNA training in as few as four weeks.

LPN – Licensed Practical Nurses must also complete an approved educational program. Typically, these programs take about one year to complete, and will grant aspiring LPNs a diploma or certificate upon graduation. When you graduate from the LPN school at Stone Academy, you will earn your diploma and become eligible to sit for the Connecticut NCLEX-PN licensing examination. You will also leave with the clinical skills needed to care for patients in a range of facilities, from home care to hospitals, as well as the knowledge needed to advance in your career.

CNA vs. LPN Licensing & Certification

As their names imply, LPNs and CNAs have different licensing and certification requirements. Certified nursing assistants must become certified by their state. And in all states, licensed practical nurses must earn their license to practice as a nurse.

CNA – After completing a CNA program, nursing assistants must take a competency exam. Passing this exam will earn them a state-specific title, as either a Certified Nursing Assistant or Certified Nursing Aide. This certification also places CNAs on a state registry, allowing them to work in a nursing home.

LPN – Licensed Practical Nurses are required to be fully licensed by their states. To do so, they must first pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) after completing their LPN training. This will earn them proper licensure and qualify them to work as a Licensed Practical Nurse. This licensure also enables LPNs to take on more medical duties that CNAs are not certified to perform.

Both LPNs and CNAs are vital members of the healthcare team, each providing basic nursing care and serving as important liaisons between patients and the rest of the medical staff. And while they share some job responsibilities, their roles are distinct: an LPN nurse provides more in-depth, hands-on patient care, while a CNA nursing assistant aids with a range of bedside duties.

The nursing career you choose will ultimately depend on your career goals, your interests, as well as your ability to commit to postsecondary education. Whether you are looking to become a CNA or LPN in Connecticut, know that you can do so right at Stone Academy. Our nursing programs are dedicated to helping students thrive in patient care and in successful nursing careers. Simply click here to request more information online or apply now!